News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2007

Riley calls for end of double-dipping
Proposed change would affect Calhoun, Athens State employees

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Legislators who work for Calhoun Community College and Athens State University could lose their college jobs under policies Gov. Bob Riley proposed Thursday to the state Board of Education.

Riley asked the board to prohibit state legislators from holding jobs at public schools and two-year colleges. Riley asked the board to put the proposals on its next meeting agenda.

That meeting will be at Calhoun's main campus April 26, but interim two-year college Chancellor Renee Culverhouse said a policy committee must make a recommendation before she can bring the matter to the board.

Calhoun President Marilyn Beck and Athens State University President Jerry Bartlett said that if the board adopts Riley's proposals, lawmakers working at the colleges would have to choose between their college jobs and the state Legislature.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, works for Calhoun, and Rep. Todd Greeson, R-Ider, works for Athens State's Northeast Center at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville. About 30 legislators hold one or more paid positions at two-year colleges, a practice the governor said should end.

Hall became assistant to the president at Calhoun in 1998, four years after becoming a legislator.

Before that, she was a teacher in Huntsville for more than 25 years.

She was already on the job when Calhoun hired Beck as president four years ago.

Hall is still assistant to the president, but since 2006, the job's emphasis has changed. She now coordinates the ROADS program, which monitors students at risk of dropping out and tries to connect them with services to help them succeed in college. Beck said Hall does a good job in the position, which paid her $70,155 in 2006.

Hall said her background as a teacher and her bachelor's and master's degrees in related fields prepared her for her role. She said she applied for and went through screening for the job just as any other applicant would.

Because Hall's job involves tracking students who miss three or more classes in a row, she said she does much of her work Mondays, Fridays and weekends. "I was in my office until 9 p.m. Monday, she said. "I work my 40 hours." She said the governor's proposals concern her.

Beck said concerns about employment abuses in the two-year college system have made working difficult for everyone in the system, both teachers and administrators.

She said she has never hired a legislator for a college position and is "comfortable with that position."

But Beck said that even if the board doesn't adopt the governor's proposals, the two-year system has procedures to protect against abuse "if they are followed." She said that if the process is followed, college presidents select employees from a pool of three applicants selected by a campus screening committee.

Bartlett said he agreed to hire Greeson as assistant to the manager at the Athens State University Northeast Center. Bartlett said he did so at the request of Northeast Alabama Community College President David Campbell. Bartlett said Athens State and Northeast each pay Greeson about $22,000 per year.

"For us it works," Bartlett said.

Athens State holds junior- and senior-level courses at Northeast, and the center serves those students, he said. The center's regular manager also works at another campus part of the week, Bartlett said, so it is convenient for Greeson to be there part of the time.

Bartlett said Greeson's duties involve recruiting. "He is an alum and fits in well," he said.

But Bartlett said there is a lot of public debate about legislators on the two-year system's payroll. Under Riley's proposal, Bartlett said, Greeson would have to resign one of his jobs.

Greeson was unavailable for comment.

Bartlett said that, at some point, Alabama may have to choose between a full-time Legislature, as some states have, and its current part-time Legislature.

"In this type of situation, legislators are going to have to work somewhere else, too, to make ends meet," Bartlett said. "Now it is not a 12-month job."

Bartlett said one way lawmakers could respond to criticism of their dual positions is to recuse themselves from votes affecting their other places of employment.

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